A2: Last minute exam tips

I have marked a few practice essays today and there are a few things that I think are worth focusing upon:

  • Introduction – try to give an overall picture of the debate; don’t just present the view of one side, very briefly outline what the range of views are.
  • Always plan your 18 and 33 mark responses – 2 mins plan for the 18 and 5 mins for 33 – this will allow you to link the arguments rather than listing information (which is what so many students do).
  • Try to link your paragraphs – the first sentence of the paragraph should link to the last and ideally, the title too.
  • When you are supporting a point with evidence, list a range of examples and then choose one or two to analyse in more detail. For example, if you were writing about fundamentalism you might write: The relatively new phenomenon of Islamic fundamentalism has occurred in a number of countries such as Iran, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia. Within these societies there has been a significant movement to a strictly literal interpretation of Islam, one that is a closed belief system and punishes transgressions with often extreme punishment. In Iran, for example, since the 1979 revolution, the Shia regime has been seemingly intent on forcing its citizens to abide by their version of sharia law – anyone who fails to do so is at risk of arrest by the religious police. Moreover, the recent rise of Isis in some Middle Eastern countries signals that secularisation is not necessarily going to conquer the world instead Anthony Giddens and Steve Bruce argue that fundamentalism is a reaction to Westernization and perhaps this trend is likely to continue…
  • Remember that unlike other parts of the world, Europe underwent the age of enlightenment (which Sociology was part of) and this is often considered to be a primary reason why many European countries have experienced secularisation: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Age_of_Enlightenment
  • You can refer to events in the past such as the medieval ages but do not dwell on these – focus on contemporary examples
  • Utilise a range of sociologists – if you are referring to postmodernism during A02 evaluation make sure you mention at least a couple of postmodernists and give an overview of their particular theory/research
  • Always try and give a balanced argument – cover all sides of the debate and then you can draw a conclusion based on your findings
  • Don’t write about ‘society’ always identify which specific society you are referring to.
  • Whilst it is good practice not to go into huge A01 detail, some of you are not giving enough of an explanation – make sure you explain the key ideas before moving onto A02a and A02b
  • Secularisation usually refers to a decline in religious influence and/or religiosity – it is very hard to argue that the UK has not experienced a decline even if you take Davie’s argument that the only change is that there is believing without belonging now (privatization) – census statistics from 2001 and 2011 and mori polls (https://www.ipsos-mori.com/researchpublications/researcharchive/2921/Religious-and-Social-Attitudes-of-UK-Christians-in-2011.aspx) for example do not support this.
  • However, Berger does make a strong case for secularisation being a myth in many places: http://www.firstthings.com/article/2008/02/002-secularization-falsified

 

Y13 Exam Advice

Hi all,

Satvir sent me an essay to mark and he was happy to share it with you:

Functionalism Essay_Satvir

He also asked about what could be included in a fundamentalism answer, so here are my ideas:

definition of fundamentalism using Steve Bruce who identifies that there are two types of fundamentalism – the Western version (NCR in USA) which is a response to liberalisation and the post colonial response (Isis, Iran and Taliban).
An exploration of examples of fundamentalism – what are their features (sects or cults – deviant; closed belief systems; extreme; high commitment etc use Troeltch)? Compare to other forms of belief such as denominations, atheism or political ideology
discussion of why fundamentalism has occurred – apply Anthony Giddens, Stark and Bainbridge, Lyotard and Bruce (cultural defence, failure of science metanarrative and response to late/postmodernism)
– also compare to Comte’s predictions of a positive stage and Weber’s rationality (why hasn’t this occured?
– You could use functionalism, in particular, Talcott Parsons and also Norris and Engleheart to help explain that people often require security and a point to life
– also secularisation has conversely encouraged fundamentalism because the secular world allows freedoms which leave a vacuum for fundamentalism
– globalisation has also allowed fundamentalism to flourish – sharing ideas via social media etc. and it is easier to organise and mobilise
– from a Marxist perspective you could explore ideas that fundamentalism is the ultimate example of how the powerful utilise religion to socially control
– from a similar conflict perspective, feminists would also argue that fundamentalism often allows the tight regulation of women (no contraception, abortion etc in USA; stoning of women but not men for adultery in Afghanistan)
– a really good UK sociologist to use is Ramji who argues that Muslim men utilise Islam as an excuse to exploit women and often justify their patriarchal actions with religion
– another sociologist to use is Akhtar who argues that young Muslims have become radicalised by the political events in the Middle East, Iraq and Afghanistan…
The future – will fundamentalism increase or decline? Why?

A2 Religion: Isis and Fundamentalism

Have a read of the following article (http://gu.com/p/45tjc), it is a very interesting insight into the fundamentalist ideology of Isis. Here is an extract if you are not keen to read a whole article!

Savagery is at the core of Isis ideology. But it is crucial not to play down that brutal acts have to be justified through sharia texts. Islamic fundamentalism is Isis’s ideology, so to speak, and every act has to be grounded in religious traditions. Muslim clerics who issue a “letter to al-Baghdadi” or a lengthy fatwa to delegitimise Isis miss the mark unless they understand the invigorating nature of this violent ideology. While Isis uses manuals such as Naji’s book, it references religious texts and stories. Muslim clerics should recognise that theoretical fatwas cannot sufficiently counter what I call “kinetic” sharia, consisting of stories and actions carried out by authoritative Muslim figures in early Islam, on which Isis relies heavily to justify its ideology. Statements such as “this hadith is weak” or “it is not permissible to kill prisoners of war” can be backed by religious texts, but how early Muslim leaders acted is similarly powerful, if not more persuasive.